COVID-19 and our battle to be good


COVID-19 and our battle to be good

COVID-19 and our battle to be good

It is going to get worse, so let’s be prepared and on point with our best behaviour possible. First, let’s tackle “it is going to get worse.”

COVID-19 is packing uncertainty and severity with our best medical experts warning us that at least 50% of Canadians will suffer some form the ailment, and perhaps up to 70% of Canadians will contract the coronavirus. Those statistics are from Canada’s federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, whose data warn that 20% of those contracting the virus will experience COVID-19 severely.

Because up to two million Canadians are expected to be infected, these are uncharted waters in Canada.

We will certainly see more fatalities. And the implications? Advance warning came in a headline from Sunnybrook’s Health Sciences Centre intensive-care expert in The Globe and Mail: “The coronavirus is a chance to have the end-of-life conversations we need.”

We are in a grim time, and being sent home to be away from people is the easiest part of the weeks ahead. As Dr. Gordon Rubenfeld of Sunnybrook warns:

The current models of spread and severity include the possibility that demand for life support will exceed the supply in Canada.

Even testing for the coronavirus is being reserved for the high-risk groups who either might spread it or might suffer greatly from it.

We will all know someone who will suffer physically from this pandemic, and we will all experience loss in freedom and income. Canada’s hospital system was working to capacity prior to the outbreak. Even as we hear that innovations in organizational health care are being implemented. Our medical system needs all the good cheer we can provide, including stories of medical students offering to babysit children of overworked doctors and nurses.

Self-isolation, social distancing, donating blood for Canadian Blood Services: these are actions we must take to do our part for our overburdened health care system.

“Our best behaviour”?

Best behavior sounds simple, but it’s a complex problem filled with uncertainty.

What if the family you are isolating with is a mess? Fools cannot be reasoned with, which is hardly a fact original to me: it comes from Proverbs that are thousands of years old. So let’s just accept that hard truth and resist as well as we can any instinct to argue with fools to change their behavior.

Instead, let’s work on ourselves. Go for a walk. Make a regular schedule. Dive into uplifting material in music and reading. Limit your media fix. Eat well. Minimize alcohol to sensible moderation. I could go on and on but let me just cut to the chase: We need God for this one.

A spiritual exchange between God and self is required to live with good behavior among irritating family, other difficult people and the tension of a pandemic. Quite simply, I need less of myself and more of God’s love in my reactions.

For Context, I interviewed Erinn Oxford, who runs The Dale, a feeding program that is delivering food to some of Toronto’s 6700 homeless people. Erinn’s approaches have changed from indoor to outdoor meals for COVID-19, and she has her own family to consider as well.  “Whether we like to believe it or not, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, not just for the sake of ourselves, but for the other. For those who feel forced to slow down life, I hope good things can develop in the solitude,” says Erinn.

Solitude is essential for the kind of connection with God that changes my behaviour.

There’s a great lesson on this from Sister Mary Catherine Perry, who wrote of how she had been “self-isolating for 29 years” and how her daily schedule includes 90 minutes of “profound silence”—the kind of silence that creates still waters in a person’s soul and sets a temperament right. My stabs at profound silence find me asking God to embed the eight fruits of the Holy Spirit into me. These qualities are found in Ephesians 5: 22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

As those qualities in you expire, as they always will, give yourself distance and silence so you can have the quiet to renew your spirit with God, and be filled again with the good stuff. We all have sin, the nasty stuff, that can be quick to pass on to others. It takes work to have our souls filled with divine qualities instead, and we have no choice but to pray for them and surrender to God’s nature moving in on our own.

As our plans screeched to a halt to adjust to COVID-19, our Context team staged our first group worship time online. I lit a candle and held it up to my computer’s camera for our clustered group to usher in a sense of the holy, and we each took turns sharing a passage from the Bible that had spoken to us during the past few days. What astonished me was how the Biblical words were popping off the page with relevance as each had a different scripture which was calming our general anxiety.

Psalm 89, Romans 15:1, Proverbs 16;3, II Chronicles 7:14, Hebrews 10: 35-36, II Timothy 1:7 …. Each of these texts God used in our hearts to calm the COVID-19 storm.

This is how God will speak to you: with the Bible, with community, with a spirit stilled in the hush of waiting and talking with God in prayer. We will all be better for it.

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